The Touring Photographer in Japan: Classes from Hokkaido
Though we’ve been to Antarctica and the Arctic, northern Japan in February set a brand new bench mark for us when it comes to capturing in COLD, frigid temperatures.
The impetus to journey to Hokkaido in winter is twofold. The primary is the distinctive and photogenic wildlife. The second is the transformation of the panorama by considerable snow right into a minimalist winter wonderland.
On this article, I’ll focus on the photographic gear I discovered most helpful in several capturing conditions, in addition to helpful non-photographic objects for coping with the chilly, ice and snow.
Foul climate preparation
We coated in some depth the layered method to dressing for capturing within the chilly in a previous article on capturing in Arctic Svalbard, north of Norway within the Arctic Circle. I discovered Japan even colder and was VERY glad I had included a couple of articles which I’ll spotlight right here:
Air-Activated hand and toes heaters
Our journey final yr to the Arctic demonstrated the utility of hand heaters, which may be slipped right into a pocket and glove. For this journey, we additionally introduced alongside the boot insole model of those heaters, which had been great, particularly for capturing the cranes. There have been sufficient photographers aligned alongside a bridge and later a fence capturing the cranes that there wasn’t a lot room to maneuver and we had been largely standing in a single place on snow, with out strolling, lengthy sufficient for toes to freeze in penetrating chilly. HotHands hand heaters and insole foot heaters are offered on Amazon in multiples.
I want I had been sensible sufficient to have been carrying my Kahtoola MICROspikes from the start, as quickly as we encountered snow. Parking tons may be icy and it solely takes one twisting fall to place a critical damper in your mobility. I fell and twisted my ankle after our first crane shoot, on our first full day in Hokkaido. I used to be fortunate I didn’t maintain a fracture, however the harm actually slowed down my skill to clamber out and in of the car at numerous capturing stops. You may be sure I wore crampons religiously thereafter till we left Hokkaido for the extra temperate climes of Honshu. These light-weight crampons may be slipped over footwear or boots and may be obtained by means of Amazon or at outside shops.
It was actively snowing, HARD, throughout our morning capturing the cranes. I at all times maintain a hood on my lens and my digital camera, the Fujifilm X-T2, is waterproof, up to some extent. I’ve stored cheap “baggie” sort protectors in my digital camera bag for years however by no means encountered heavy sufficient precipitation to utilize them.
This snow was heavy and melting quick sufficient that I believed it could be a problem for the electronics, so I lastly had the event to make use of these. They’re flimsy and inconvenient, however higher than nothing whether it is coming down arduous. For our second shoot, I made use of one other merchandise I’ve had for years, however had by no means used earlier than both, a extra substantial AquaTech “raincoat” made to be used with a digital camera with a protracted lens.
To say this was awkward to make use of within the area is an understatement. It took me 5 minutes of wrestling in my residence to place it in place to shoot this illustration. One downside is that mine dates from my SLR days and might be too huge for my present system. Though the thought is nice, with clear plastic home windows to see numerous controls, it’s troublesome to maneuver into place and to maintain in place. Attempting to place this on within the area was troublesome, to say the least. A lower-tech, cheaper answer, like LensCoat, could be in my future.
I paired my Fujifilm X-T2 with the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens for almost all of my snow monkey pictures, making full use of the focal size flexibility. For a shorter focal size, I additionally used the Fujifilm XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens. The hike into the onset is a mile in on a street that had contemporary packed snow once we traversed it however might actually be icy at different occasions, so be ready with good snow or climbing boots, with crampons to be on the protected facet.
Though the birds are massive, the distances are appreciable. I used the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens, absolutely racked out to 400mm, with the Fujifilm XF 1.4x TC WR Teleconverter, giving me 560mm of attain. This was sufficient to isolate pairs or small teams of birds. A few of my favourite photographs resulted from stitching collectively much less racked-out views right into a panorama.
The birds are attracted into shut capturing vary by starvation, as they swoop in to scoop up fish hand-tossed from a ship. Much less focal size was needed than I might have guessed. I used the identical digital camera setup, however at occasions, the boat operators introduced the birds in so shut, 100mm of focal size was nearly an excessive amount of.
This shoot was much less frenetic, permitting me time to shoot with a mixture of the Fujifilm XF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 R LM OIS WR Lens, the Fujifilm XF 80mm f/2.8 R LM OIS WR Macro Lens and for a wider angle scene, the Fujifilm XF 16-55mm f/2.8 R LM WR Lens.
We loved our introduction to Japan’s winter wildlife and panorama a lot, we’re already planning a return in 2020! If this submit has piqued your curiosity in an analogous journey, take a look at my prior article for a comparability of aggressive journeys.